MAJOR Peek at Rough of Catalyst…

This is rough stuff that hasn’t seen an editor’s hand yet, but I wanted to give you a glimpse of the third book in my Kithran Regenesis series. This is a lot more than I usually reveal so early in the game–an entire prologue. But I’m so thrilled with the reviews Replicant has brought in, I wanted to share with those looking forward to the next in the series. Hope you enjoy!

“You have to stop following me.”

Suns. I nearly crawled out of my skin when I slipped around the dark corner and ran into Jackson Canfield. He waited, silent and still, a tall, tenebrous shape obstructing the bit of light coming from behind him. Wide shoulders blocked the narrow entrance to a side tunnel. I thought about trying to squeeze into a crack in the mine wall or fade into the gloom—but both moves were pointless because my air suit was as scarlet as my hair. Should have grabbed the gray one. This section of the mines had only been open a short time, so it still crawled with shadows.

“Vala.” He sighed and straightened from where he’d been leaning on the cave wall.

I let my long hair slide forward in my helmet, trying to obscure my expression. As usual my tongue tied up in knots when he actually spoke to me. I could recite the valuable minerals and metals of every discovered world in front of my entire school, but Jacks stole my words.

He came up to frame the sides of my helmet with his gloved hands. “Vala, as appealing as you are and trust me, you have appeal in spades, you’re too young for me. You really do have to stop sneaking down here.”

Pulling my helmet out of his hands, I turned to leave before he could see what his words did to me. The man made me feel like I was turned inside out. I wanted him to feel the same about me so much I’d been driving my sisters crazy with my moping lately.

“Hey,” he said softly. “You do know I’m seeing someone, right?”

I didn’t want to think about that, about what I’d seen when I’d followed him home the night before. Jacks, pressed against a blond human, his tongue thrust so far down the man’s throat, I was surprised either of them could breathe. I’d been hit with a razor-sharp jealousy that shredded my heart while at the same time; a flood of heat had weakened my legs. But desire was nothing new around Jacks, and hadn’t been since the second he’d stepped off a ship onto Kithra. One look and it was like I’d inhaled him into my lungs, brain, and heart. He made the blood rush in my veins. Harsh, masculine features that most Gwinarians would find too severe drew me like he’d tied a permanent rope around my body. I followed him—all the time. I couldn’t seem to stop myself. I had for two long years.

Even my mothers and father had asked me to stop.

Humiliation from their last conversation with me caused scorching heat to creep up my neck. I was one of the few who had been chosen for a free ride through colleges on three different planets. They were scared I’d throw that away on someone who didn’t want me. But I didn’t know how to tell them my gut told me he did.

Realizing I’d been staring at his mouth, I slowly lifted my gaze to his and the brief flash of raw need I caught made my breath freeze. My eyes opened wide.

“Dammit, Vala.” Jacks grabbed my arm, and tugged me through the mines. We passed Gwinarians and the humans brought in by The Company to mine kithronite. In air suits, it was impossible to tell the difference between the two species, but I leaned toward the logical assumption that we’d come from the same origins anyway.

Jacks didn’t stop until were upside, and he’d pulled me into a rarely used tunnel—one that had air. Shaking his head, he unhooked the breathing tubes to my helmet, and pulled it off before doing the same with his own.

I looked up and was snagged, just as I’d expected. Ice-blue eyes stared into mine. His hair, slightly damp with sweat stuck to his pale, human skin. I loved the color of his hair because it reminded me of my favorite Gowlen nuts. Matching stubble framed masculine lips, and I bit my own to keep from touching the whiskers, to see if they were soft or prickly.

He sighed, and placed his hands on my shoulders. “You are such a smart, stunning girl, Vala—”

“I turned eighteen yesterday,” I blurted. “Isn’t that the age of consent on your Earths?”

The corner of his mouth tilted up. “Yeah, it is. So that’s why you followed me home last night.”

“You saw me?”

“You think I usually make out with Crichton in a public tunnel?” He sighed. “I was trying to show you I have a life, a relationship already.”

“But there can be more than two—”

He tugged off his gloves and place one finger over my lips. “I’m not interested in more. Not right now.”

“But maybe someday?”

He chuckled. “Should have realized you’d latch onto that. Listen to me, Vala. I’m thirty years-old and I only plan to be on Kithra another four months. You should be out with friends your own age, having fun. And didn’t I hear you won a prestigious scholarship?”

“But,” I interrupted before taking a deep breath and narrowing my eyes. “You watch me, too.”

He closed his eyes and was silent so long, my heart started beating harder. When he opened them, the resignation there made my lungs freeze. “I know.”

I licked my lips and his gaze dropped.

“You don’t understand your own appeal, Vala. Not yet.”

“But I want to,” I whispered. “I want you to teach me.”

He groaned, and took a step away from me, then another.

Jacks wanted me. I saw it in the way his breath picked up, in the way his nostrils flared as he stared hard at me. If anything was going to happen, I would have to make it. I advanced on him, knowing that what I was about to do could change everything. I wanted to change everything. I needed it.

Slowly, hands shaking, I raised them to the latches on my air suit.

Jacks reached out, placed his hands over mine. “No.” The word came guttural and low, and the end of it was a breath over my mouth right before he slanted his mouth over my lips. Fire erupted in my belly as his tongue slid inside to tangle with mine. It was like I could feel him, breathing inside me. Heat swelled in my chest and I wrapped my arms around his neck. He groaned and deepened the kiss, spearing his hands into my hair and cradling my head. That connection I’d felt the moment he’d stepped off a ship onto Kithra two years before flared to life. His hands slid down my back, and he pulled me compulsively to his bigger body, tucking me against him so tightly, I could feel the slam of his heart against my ribs—through the suits.

He tore his mouth away and rested his forehead on mine. “Damn it.”

The low, murmured words made me smile. I couldn’t help it because he couldn’t resist me. I was right. We had something between us, something my mothers told me rarely happens. “I want you so much I don’t know what to do.”

He pulled back, took his hands from me, sighed. “You don’t know what to do because you’re too fucking young. Shit. I had a feeling it would be like that…” He stared at me, a wry smile tilting the corner of lips I knew now, lips I wanted to know even more. I licked my own to taste him again, my gaze clashing with his when he groaned again. “Vala—”

“Please.”  I backed away from him, knowing if I didn’t leave him he’d come up with more excuses. Something told me he’d reconsider if I just left him alone. For a day. Maybe two if I could stand it. “I know you feel this—our connection. Think about it. That’s all I ask.” I turned and ran before he could say anything else.

It wasn’t the last time I saw him but I spent the next twelve years wishing it had been.

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